Workzone: Day after Super Bowl means 'unproductive wages'

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If Super Bowl Sunday goes as hoped, many of us will have a few extra drinks, a few extra slices of pizza and a few extra chicken wings tonight.

And many of us will pay the price on Super Bowl Monday. As will our employers.

About half of all Americans will watch Super Bowl XLV -- with a much higher rating in Pittsburgh, where you can presume that about 80 percent of TVs in operation will be tuned to the big game. As a country, we'll eat 20 million pounds of chips, hundreds of acres of pizza and consume 50 million or so cases of beer (that's not counting what we drink at the bars).

The result of all that revelry, from a workplace perspective, is an alleged productivity loss -- $170 million in "unproductive wages," paid to people who are yakking about the game, collecting on their office betting pools and re-watching the funniest television ads on YouTube.

There will also be millions of unexpected work absences: An additional 1.5 million Americans are likely to call in "sick" the Monday after the Super Bowl, on top of the average number of people who are actually sick that day, according to a 2008 survey published by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc. and conducted online via Harris Interactive.

Another 4 million or so will show up late for work on Monday, according to the survey results. The tardiness will naturally be most concentrated in Pittsburgh and Wisconsin.

During the week leading up to the Super Bowl, employers suffer $850 million in lost productivity -- what with setting up all the betting pools, checking more often than usual and planning Super Bowl parties from work.

As with other sports-related "productivity loss" studies, this one should be taken with a measure of incredulity: The calculation assumes that time spent on the Super Bowl wouldn't have been time wasted otherwise, on a smoke break or yet another trip to the coffee machine.

But the Super Bowl hangover, literal and figurative, presents enough of a workplace inconvenience that one grass-roots lobbying group wants the day after the Super Bowl to be declared a federal holiday.

Still, the Super Bowl is nowhere near the "time-suck" that is next month's March Madness NCAA men's basketball tournament. That tournament lasts for three weeks, actually spills into April, and with the advent of high-speed Internet, many employees are able to watch full afternoon basketball games from their computers. About 40 million will participate in a workplace Final Four betting pool.

Bill Toland: or 412-263-2625.


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